March 30, 2020

March D.C. Update

Washington Roundup – March 2020

By: Lowell Randel

ASAS Holds Congressional Briefing on Agricultural Animals as Biomedical Models

On March 5th, ASAS conducted a Congressional briefing to discuss the importance of agricultural animals as biomedical models.  Cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other farm animals serve as excellent physiological models for studies related to human health or disease. In a research environment, these domestic animals serve as dual-purpose models that enable advances that benefit both agricultural and biomedical sciences – ultimately improving human and animal health and wellbeing.  Over 40 staff from House and Senate offices attended this briefing to learn more about how research on farm animals is advancing both human health and agriculture.

Speakers included:

Dr. Larry Reynolds – North Dakota State University

Dr. Scott Radcliffe – Purdue University

Dr. Penny Riggs – Texas A&M University

In addition to the Congressional briefing, ASAS representatives met with leaders at both the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  The meetings focused on the success of the joint Dual Use, Dual Benefit program administered by both agencies and future efforts to support similar research.

Congress and Agencies Turn Focus to COVID-19 Response

March is generally a time when Congress and the Administration focus their attention on budget and appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year.  However, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has required policy makers to shift their attention to crisis response.  Multiple relief bills have already passed through Congress and signed into law that are designed to support impacted workers and companies, including a $2.2 trillion package designed to inject money into the economy to mitigate some of the damage caused by the national emergency.

As more states and local jurisdictions institute policies restricting movement, the Department of Homeland Security has published a list of essential workers supporting critical infrastructure.  While the states have the discretion to implement their own policies, many are following the federal guidance.  Food and agriculture has been designated as a part of critical infrastructure and many of those involved in animal agriculture are included. 

Below are selected bullets from the DHS document that may apply to ASAS members:

• Educators supporting public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing other essential functions.

• Workers in animal diagnostic and food testing laboratories in private industries and in institutions of higher education.

• Animal agriculture workers to include those employed in veterinary health (including those involved in supporting emergency veterinary or livestock services); raising of animals for food; animal production operations; livestock markets; slaughter and packing plants, manufacturers, renderers, and associated regulatory and government workforce.

• Transportation supporting animal agricultural industries, including movement of animal medical and reproductive supplies and materials, animal vaccines, animal drugs.

Below are additional government resources to assist with preparation and response to the COVID-19 response:

White House  - Coronavirus.gov

USDA Coronavirus resources

Centers for Disease Control

National Institutes of Health

Department of Labor